Sheila was an aide at the Home of the Innocents. She was working that first day when we took Lew from the respite care home to HOTI. That day was a fog for me. On that day Sheila was just one of a cloud of concerned, welcoming faces we encountered. Over the months and years that followed, however, Sheila began to stand out in the crowd.
In 1993 when Lew was hospitalized twice, it was common for Sheila to get off work at 11:00 p.m.at HOTI and come to Kosair Children’s Hospital to visit Lew and me. When Sheila was working, it wasn’t unusual to see her pushing Lew’s chair along with her as she worked with other children in the nursery or in another place in the building. Before Lew got his g-tube in 1993, it was common for Lew to refuse to swallow his medicine. Other nurses would give up in exasperation and then call Sheila. Lew would do things for Sheila that he would only do for me.
They were quite a sight together. Sheila is a tall, statuesque, African-American woman. In 1991 when they first met, Lew was a tiny, not-yet-fifty pound bundle of frail, pale flesh and bones. An unlikely pair perhaps, but bound together by ties of love from the first day.
I came to call Sheila “Lew’s Other Mother.” She is among the greatest blessings of my life and, although he couldn’t tell me in words, I know she was a blessing in Lew’s life as well. Sometimes the pain of not being able to touch Lew was more than I could bear. My thumb literally ached with the need to rub his cheek and temple. It relieved my pain to know that Sheila was there doing what I could not do.